Wednesday, 15 April 2015

pesto and Genoa memories

My Larousse Culinary Encyclopedia states that pesto comes from Genoa and I'm certainly not going to argue with that! I have actually been there, many years ago. The classic Italian pesto with basil, Parmesan and pine nuts is one of my favourite foods. Now that I have finally bought a new food processor, pesto for lunch is common in casa mia. The cookbook of my friend (Cafe)Sigrun is also to blame because she was killing me with pesto images while we were working on the manuscript. Her book has a classic recipe (different ratios than mine; there are endless versions out there) and a pumpkin seed pesto that made me go yum ... yum! Remember the scene in Julie and Julia when the editor was testing Child's recipe for boeuf bourguignon and rolled back her eyes in bliss? That's what I mean when I say yum ... yum! I promise to share her recipe in the autumn when the book has been published.

Back to Genoa. I arrived there via train from Zürich/Milan and grabbed a taxi to go to some tourist agency to buy a ferry ticket to Sardinia, as described in my travel guide (no Internet back then). The clerk looked at me with pity and said the guide got it all wrong; I should buy the ticket at the ferry port (stupid travel guide!). So I grabbed another taxi to go to the port and just missed a ferry - classic! Luckily it was a beautiful day and I remember sitting on steps at the port in the afternoon, reading and eating juicy peaches that I had bought at a market. Next to me were students from Milan (I was younger, only 18) and somehow I became part of their group without being part of it. I didn't speak Italian but it was as if they were looking after this lone Icelander sitting next to them. After all those years I still remember two friendly faces from that group; the two who spoke English. I wouldn't say I was insecure travelling alone but it was a long wait for a ferry and their company was comforting.

With a good food processor you don't ever have to use pesto out of a jar. I think many don't realise how easy it is to make and the beauty of pesto making is that you can change the ratio of ingredients: Want more olive oil? Use more oil! Want more Parmesan? Go for it! The reason why I use 60 grams basil is that I buy the leaves in a 30-gram bag and I get the texture I like. If we don't finish the pesto in one go I put the rest in a jar and add some olive oil before refrigerating. If you don't have a food processor you can use a mortar and pestle.


50 g pine nuts
60 g fresh green basil
35 g Parmesan
½-1 clove garlic
½ teaspoon fine sea/Himalayan salt
a pinch of freshly ground black pepper
50 ml organic extra virgin olive oil

Lightly brown the pine nuts in a dry frying pan to bring out their flavour.

Before whizzing all the ingredients in a food processor, thinly slice the Parmesan cheese and coarsely chop the clove of garlic. While mixing/pulsing the ingredients, pour the olive oil slowly into the bowl, until the pesto thickens. (Depending on your food processor, you may have to scrape the sides of the bowl once or twice.)

Serve with e.g freshly baked baguette/bread and/or pasta, salmon, meat or vegetables.

My idea for an easy-to-make lunch: I boil tagliatelle or linguine while preparing the pesto (set the timer on al dente). I let the cooked pasta drain while browning sliced mushrooms in light olive oil in a frying pan and add some sea salt. I top the pasta with the mushrooms and serve with pesto on the side.

Uppskrift á íslensku.

Monday, 13 April 2015

chai latte and textiles

This morning I started feeling a little under the weather and there was only one thing that came to mind: chai latte (Indian tea). I snapped a photo of my bowl which I enjoyed with my stack of The World of Interiors. In their latest issue, May 2015, is a feature on the beautiful Welsh farmhouse, Allt-y-Bela, of garden designer Arne Maynard. I have shared the house and its garden on the blog and I don't know how often I have pinned images of both. Grab a copy of the magazine if you can!

For those interested in textile design: In the above photo my bowl is resting on a page in the October 2014 issue. It's a gorgeous feature of watercolour patterns by the textile designer William Kilburn (1745–1818). These paintings are available in a book called Mr. Kilburn's Calicos: William Kilburn's Fabric Printing Patterns from the Year 1800 by Gabriel Sempill and Simon Lawrence. It's an expensive book but I bet it's worth every penny.

The World of Interiors, October 2014, p. 112-113

I had already posted my chai latte recipe on my old food blog but it's my intention to slowly repost the old recipes here to keep them all in one place. I have been making this tea for years and there really is no rule when it comes to preparing it (the ingredients below are more of a suggestion). You can add spices or skip them. I recommend using not too much sugar and rather allowing the flavour of the spices to play its magic.


500 ml water (2 cups)
500 ml milk/soy milk (2 cups)
4 bags organic black tea
2-2½ tablespoons organic unrefined cane sugar
1-3 cinnamon sticks or 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon whole cloves
¼ teaspoon whole aniseed or 1 star anise
a few black peppercorns or freshly ground black pepper
a pinch of ground ginger
a pinch of ground nutmeg
a pinch of ground cardamom (you can also use pods)

Put all the ingredients into a saucepan and bring to the boil over medium-high heat.

Serve the tea in a cup or a bowl and enjoy!

Optional: If you have time you can start with boiling the water with the spices to get a hotter blend, and then add the rest of the ingredients later (one cinnamon stick would then be enough). You can also boil the milk separately and whisk it before adding it to the tea; the foamy milk will make your tea look like a real latte.

Uppskrift á íslensku

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Letter from New York

No, I'm not writing from New York (wouldn't mind, though), I just finished reading this wonderful book, Letter from New York, by Helene Hanff, published in 1992. I already told you that I had ordered a used copy and mine turned out to be a first edition; an old library copy with a plastic cover that makes cracking sounds when one turns a page - love the feeling!

I recently blogged about Hanff's book 84 Charing Cross Road (see here) and told you that I had fallen for her witty style. She is just as witty in Letter from New York but that book contains stories she wrote for six years for the BBC Woman's Hour broadcast after her success with 84 Charing Cross Road. These stories are about her life in New York, about her neighbours (people and dogs - she lived at 305 East 72nd Street), friends, walks in Central Park, etc.

Hanff isn't a glamorous person but writes with passion about daily life in her community and on the streets of the city. She's a keen observer and easily cracks me up. If you haven't already travelled to New York I think you will be eager to visit after the reading, even though she is describing New York in the late 70s and early 80s. What I especially love about her is how comfortable she is with making fun of herself. I wish she were still among us because we need people like Hanff in this world.

I probably don't have to tell you that I have already ordered my third book by her and I'm expecting a used copy of Q's Legacy to arrive in the mail soon.